As the years have flown by, it is not uncommon for the same questions to pop up over and over again, and at the end of the day, my clients (CEOs, Company Presidents, Executive Directors) hire me to make their organizations stronger so that they can be more profitable. I also work with non profit organizations, and their goal is of course to raise more funds, recruit more volunteers and provide more and better services to their clients.
So, today, I want to leave you with five questions that I have heard most often and provide you with one strategy to answer each question. I want to remind you that I am not a consultant…I am a coach, so finding solutions to these challenges rests with the client..my goal is to bring those solutions out of the client and onto the table. While you probably have similar or better solutions than the ones I am listing below, I am simply sharing with you what I have seen has worked quite well in the recent past. These solutions are not fluff or blue sky thinking…they are practical and simple, yet not always so easy to achieve. These approaches require hard work, consensus and as a leader, your full commitment to seeing that the strategy/strategies are implemented and refined over time.
The 5 Questions and Answers to Change Your Business For The Better:
Question 1: What is it going to take for me to succeed as a leader and for our company to thrive?
Answer: To be as candid, direct and transparent as possible. Too many companies “talk around” tough or sensitive issues, which can waste time, energy and money. If you are not being candid, creativity is blocked, projects slow down and money is lost. Just consider the last time you postponed having a tough conversation or being open and frank during a project, and ask yourself what was lost as a result. While being candid is simple, it is difficult to implement, because employees are fearful of backlash if they are candid and open. Being transparent, candid and direct should be encouraged, praised and rewarded, and your employees will trust that being candid is actually a success tool…not an approach that is going to cost them their job.
Question 2: How do I stay competitive in today’s business world?
Answer: Attract the best players and train the up on a regular, ongoing basis. You may have the most beautifully built company in the world, but the people who live inside that building are your key to staying competitive. If you attract top talent, and you then don’t have a world class training program (and I don’t mean sitting in the classroom), it will be very hard to retain your best people. When building a training program, it is critical to implement the following:
- Planning: Your training programs need to be planned to meet the needs of a variety of learners and should be mapped out for each quarter of the year. Today’s workforce is made up of three generations, and their training needs will all be different. Consider the sub groups in your company and invest time with your HR Department to properly plan your training programs.
- Mission Statement: I believe that all training programs require a mission statement. The people in your company who are being trained are more than likely sitting in their seats thinking “Why am I here?” A mission statement will clear up they fuzzy “why” questions.
- Design: Your training programs need to be designed to meet the needs of your learners. If you are training a young, 23 year old woman in a classroom with a powerpoint presentation and a flip board, you won’t get very far. The best approach for this young woman would be to use short bits and bites of information while taking advantage of the use of new media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, You Tube), storytelling and experiential exercises. Why? Because this is how this generation best learns. Proper planning can make your training programs fly and build passion in your followers.
- Measurement: This is a no brainer, but many companies do not measure the success of their training. The only way to improve on the next training is to measure success and ask for feedback.
- Accountability through follow up coaching and mentoring: Once your training programs end, it is now time to implement the training into the real world of your company. A strong mentoring and coaching program can help your employees not only implement the steps learned but it can help your employees strengthen the skills they are learning along the way.
Question 3: Our company is going through a change, and I am having trouble getting people on board. What should I do?
Answer: Design and implement a strategy for executive level, management level and employee buy in. It is not uncommon for companies to implement a change in their company without thinking through a clear strategy on how to get buy in. There are multiple ways to get buy in (make sure to communicate the change in a clear, simple way; offer employees the opportunity to give you ideas through the use of an anonymous suggestion box; hold town hall meetings; allow employees a way to be heard), yet at the end of the day, as a leader, the skills you will need most during a change initiative are patience, listening and persistence. You will have some employees who jump right on the bandwagon with you while others will drag their feet or complain about the change. If you design a strategy for buy in, including a time frame to get everyone on board, the change initiative will go much more smoothly. Just remember this: Generally speaking, people don’t like change, and if a change is on the horizon, they are going to want a voice and a listening ear from their leader.
Question 4: How can I get my employees to do the work they have been assigned to do and to get it done on time and with excellence?
Answer: The typical answers by many of the leadership gurus of our past and present (no…I don’t put myself in the leadership guru category by any means) is to design a strategy, develop a great plan, work the plan and then hold people accountable for results. Yet there is one piece that is usually missing from this puzzle: As a leader, you must be willing to delegate the project, back out of micro-managing the project and give your employees the permission to fail. I have said it before, and I will say it again…people learn more from failures than from being taught in a classroom or even shadowing a leader or manager. For most leaders and business owners, delegation and empowerment are scary propositions. You may be a leader or a business owner who has always managed every detail of a project, and now you are being asked to step back and let them possibly fail so that they can fly. As a leader, one of the best ways to change your business for the better is to trust your employees to the nth degree to complete a project and complete it with excellence. At the end of a project, debrief the project with your team to uncover new ideas which will make the next project better and stronger and one that will have a greater positive impact on your team and for your customers.
Question 5: I have an employee who has been so loyal to our company for years, and the company has outgrown her. She no longer has the skills we need, has no interest in learning the skills she needs, but I just can’t bring myself to let her go.
Answer: If you have offered additional training, provided coaching and have done everything you can for this employee, it is more than likely time for you to part ways. I have worked with clients from age 26-75, and the old saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is just not true. I have coached people over the age of 70 who have stepped up to the plate to learn new media, to learn new ways of doing business. So, if you have an employee who is simply not willing to learn new skills, you can either place her in a position that does not require the skill or let her go with compassion and appreciation for her loyalty and dedication to your company. I have also worked with companies who classes to terminated employees to help them find their next job. But, at the end of the day, if your company has outgrown a few of your employees, it is time to make that tough decision and do it sooner rather than later. If you continue to hold on to employees who are not helping your company due to an unwillingness to learn new skills, your company will not only not move forward, you will take multiple steps back…far away from your future goals.
“Action should follow your goals. “Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment.”